2006 Mitsubishi Outlander

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2003 Mitsubishi Outlander

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 6

Bottom Line:

New compact sport-ute lacks punch but generally is pretty good.
Pros:
  • Carlike
  • Decent handling
  • Smooth ride
Cons:
  • Underpowered outside town
  • Small cargo area with rear seat in normal position
  • Designed mostly as an on-road vehicle

Mitsubishi has dived into the compact sport-utility vehicle market with its new Outlander model.

The 2003 Outlander is reminiscent of the 1992-94 Mitsubishi Expo LRV (Light Recreational Vehicle), which was ahead of its time.

The Outlander's bold front styling makes it look more distinctive than many small sport-utes, such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.

Underpowered
But, oops, someone dropped the ball when it came to giving the fairly heavy Outlander a strong engine. The 2.4-liter 140-horsepower 4-cylinder shared with Mitsubishi's Galant sedan lacks juice for swift merges into fast traffic or for quick passing on highways. Mountain driving also can be a bit of a trial.

There's no manual gearbox to help provide quicker acceleration because the Outlander comes only with a 4-speed automatic transmission.

The Outlander weighs 3,461 pounds with all-wheel drive and 3,240 pounds with front-drive, so those wanting the best acceleration should opt for the latter trim. But no matter which version they own, some Outlander drivers sooner or later will wish for a V6 or at least a manual or 5-speed automatic transmission.

Fine in Town
That said, the Outlander is fine for such things as running errands in town. Its transmission is responsive and it's a decent highway cruiser once up to speed—although the engine is at a rather high 3000 rpm at 70 mph.

Estimated fuel economy is competitive with rivals, at 21 mpg in the city and 26 on highways with front-drive and 20 and 25 with all-wheel drive. The fuel tank holds 15.7 gallons and only 87-octane gasoline is required.

Based on Mitsubishi Sedan
The $17,997-$20,790 Outlander is based on Mitsubishi's fairly new Lancer sedan, which means it has a carlike personality. It's nearly as wide as other compact sport-utes, but is longer than most at 179.1 inches. It's also lower, at 63.2 inches, than some of those vehicles, which helps allow easy entry and exit.

The front seat's hip point is 26 inches from the ground, so occupants can get in and out without requiring unnatural shifting or lowering of hips. Once inside, they sit rather high, with a good view of surroundings.

Despite an adventuresome name, the Outlander is designed to be used mostly as an on-road vehicle. For example, the all-wheel drive has no low-range gearing for tough off-road use.

Pretty Good Handling
The steering is quick and handling is pretty good because the Outlander has a stiff structure, fairly large 16-inch wheels and an all-independent suspension with front and rear anti-sway bars.

A long 103.3-inch wheelbase helps provide a ride so smooth that one might initially expect handling to be mushy. The brake pedal is soft, but has a progressive action.

Well-Equipped
Base LS and higher-line XLS trim levels are offered, and both versions are well-equipped. Even the LS has standard air conditioning, AM/FM/CD, cruise control and power windows, door locks and mirrors.

The XLS adds special alloy wheels, upgraded seat fabric, roof rails, privacy glass, rear spoiler, white-faced gauges and color-keyed outside mirrors. It also has more distinctive looking Lexus-style taillights.

Anti-lock brakes with an electronic brake force distribution system for surer stops are optional for the XLS. So are front side airbags. Other XLS extras include a sunroof, heated leather seats and a higher-powered sound system.

LS options include keyless entry, privacy glass and special alloy wheels.

Nicely designed outside door handles are easy to grab for quick entry, but the plastic inside door handles look and feel cheap. Front seats are supportive, and the steering column is height-adjustable.

Roomy
Four tall adults easily fit, and the especially roomy rear seat has a center area soft enough to comfortably accommodate a thin middle occupant.

Controls for the radio are small but placed high on the dashboard, which has a classy looking analog clock. Climate system controls are large, but somewhat notchy. Secondary gauges are small, but have a custom-vehicle appearance.

Above-average cupholders are in the front console, and there's a handy compartment for tollway change. Power window controls are easy to quickly reach on the driver's door. Front shoulder belts are height-adjustable, and the XLS has see-through headrests.

Average Cargo Capacity
But the cargo area has a rather high opening and average cargo capacity. Folding the split 60/40 rear seatbacks forward enlarges the cargo area. But the Outlander doesn't shine in the cargo hauling area—partly because its multilink rear suspension takes up extra space. There's a rear underfloor storage bin, but it's just a few inches deep.

While refined and generally quite decent, the Outlander has nothing unusual to offer. And it remains to be seen if the distinctive appearance works for or against it. Still, the fact that the Outlander is solid, carlike and comfortable should win it buyers.

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BB02 - 9/1/2014 9:29:40 PM